Friday, August 29, 2008

Weekend Picks

The first week is always difficult to read. It's hard to tell who's made how much improvement during the off season. So that's my excuse when all these are wrong.
Mississippi (-7.5) vs. Memphis: The Rebels' season depends on Jevan Snead. Is he the guy that was once a top recruit or have the two years off hurt him? He should start out the season with a relatively easy win against a Memphis team that still hasn't recovered from DeAngelo Williams leaving two years ago.
Louisiana Tech (+8) vs. Mississippi State: I don't really know a whole lot about Tech other than Karl Malone went there, but I am not a MSU believer this year. QB Wesley Carroll was unimpressive enough in camp that JUCO Tyson Lee is likely to get some snaps. 2 QB systems almost never work and I don't think MSU can score enough to cover.
Florida (-34.5) vs. Hawaii: Hawaii didn't travel to the mainland well when it had stars like Colt Brennan and Timmy Chang, no reason to expect things to improve now that they are without a star QB for the first time in awhile.
Clemson (-4.5) vs. Alabama (at Atlanta): Clemson's yearly collapse isn't scheduled for another eight weeks so for now expect them to play the part of the national player they're hyped up to be.
UL Louisiana (+26) @ Auburn: I think Auburn will win this one quite easily, but 26 seems high to me for a team who also has some real questions at quarterback.
Louisville (-3.5) vs. Kentucky: Brian Brohm may be gone, but Hunter Cantwell is pretty good himself and should be good enough at home to beat a bad UK team by more than a FG.
Tennessee (-7.5) @ UCLA (Monday Night): I am a big UT believer this year and I think they'll use the national spotlight as a showcase. UCLA probably has more QB problems than any other team in the country with both their starter and backup out due to injury.
Other picks I feel kinda good about:
Missouri (-8.5)
vs. Illinois (at St. Louis): The Border War has traditionally been a bigger deal on the basketball court, but recent successes by both teams have made the football field the newest home for battle for bragging rights. I think Missouri is for real and Illinois will badly miss Rashard Mendenhall.
Northwestern (-11.5) vs. Syracuse: Orange head coach Greg Robinson will be extremely lucky to survive the year. I'm not predicting big things for the Wildcats this year, but SU is going to be awful yet again. As a side note, I love the under of 56 in this game.

Commodore Banter: Morning After Edition

I think Brett Hait of The Nashville City Paper summed up Vanderbilt's season-opening victory over Miami (Ohio) best: "For at least one week, Chris Nickson proved he was the right choice to be Vanderbilt’s quarterback."

Nickson rushed for a career-high 166 yards, the second-most ever by a Vanderbilt quarterback and the most by any Commodore since tailback Lew Thomas gained 173 yards in 2001.

“He’s back,” said Vanderbilt safety Reshard Langford of Nickson. “He’s going to carry this team and carry this offense.”

I think next Thursday's match-up with South Carolina will indicate whether Nickson is truly back, but there's no denying that the fifth-year looked good.

"That's why we had him in there," Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson told The Tennessean. "He can throw the ball and he can run the ball, all sort of different ways. Sometimes it was scrambling. Sometimes it was designed runs. He just makes people miss."

Although Vegas listed them as 3.5-point underdogs, the Commodores were supposed to win last night, but I doubt many expected them to do so in such convincing fashion. It was Vanderbilt's biggest road victory since defeating Army 41-10 on Nov. 2, 1991.

The general rule of thumb for punt returners is to never catch anything inside your own 10-yard line. That rule doesn't apply to D.J. Moore, who had a 91-yard punt return to go along with an interception, sack and forced fumble.

"Those kind of guys, you just don't overcoach them," Johnson said. "If he thinks he can catch the ball and go with it, we're probably going to let him do it."

In his notebook, Mo Patton writes that a number of Commodores made their debuts against the Redhawks.

In Hait's notebook, he makes a number of good points:

*On Moore's versatility, Johnson said, "I don’t know if he’s superhuman, but he’s in fantastic shape. I ask him if he’s tired and needs to come out. He just smiles and says no.”

*Vanderbilt didn't like being an underdog.
“We weren’t offended, but it caught a lot of guys’ attention, coming from the SEC,” Langford said.

*Senior running back Jeff Jennings will wear a "KD1" patch on his jersey this season in honor of former Commodore back Kwane Doster, who was shot and killed in Tampa, Fla., on Dec. 26, 2004.

Nickson received quite the compliment from the opposition.

"That quarterback was the best running quarterback I've ever played against," said Miami linebacker Joey Hudson. "He had it. He was the guy tonight. He was the difference."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Live Blog: Vanderbilt at Miami (Ohio)

Good evening ladies and gentlemen,

We're finally back for another season of college football and man, does it feel great. I'll be here providing commentary throughout the contest so be sure to hit that refresh button. Feel free to leave questions and comments below.

6:40: It's amazing what a healthy Chris Nickson can do. He just ran for a big gain on third down to keep the drive going.

6:41: And just like that, Jeff Jennings fumbles. Not how you want to start to the season.

6:44: It's now Miami (OH) 3, Vanderbilt 0 after the Redhawks took advantage of the Commodores' turnover.

6:47: Unsurprisingly, Miami (OH) is kicking away from D.J. Moore. Can't say I blame them.

Huge third-down catch by Justin Wheeler, who managed to withstand a big hit.

6:51: Two big plays in a row for Nickson. First, he rolled out and found tight end Brandon Barden for a nine-yard gain and then hooked up with Sean Walker for a big gain.

Touchdown Vanderbilt! Nickson found Walker in the back of the end zone on third-and-goal from the five-yard line. It's now 7-3 Vanderbilt. It's early, but you can't help but be impressed with Nickson, who has looked calm and confident and showed nice touch on a number of throws. Also, George Smith wasn't kidding when he said that Sean Walker poised for a big year.

6:58: After recording six interceptions a year ago, D.J. Moore came up with his first pick of 2008, giving the Commodores great field position.

7:02: Vanderbilt went three-and-out, but Bryant Hahnfeldt nailed a 42-yard field goal to put the Commodores ahead 10-3 midway through the first quarter.

7:08: Like always, third downs are going to be critical in tonight's contest. Miami (OH) just converted on third-and-four to keep its drive going.

7:11: How can you not love D.J. Moore, arguably the most versatile player in college football? After coming up with a sack on a third down, he just returned a punt 91 yards down to the one-yard line.

He now has one interception, one sack, one forced fumbled and a 91-yard punt in less than one quarter. Not too bad.

7:17: It's now 17-3 Vanderbilt after Chris Nickson leaped over the pile from one-yard out, although after looking at the replay, it looks like the Commodores might have gotten a break. Regardless, Vanderbilt has to be pleased with its first-quarter performance.

7:24: A few first-quarter stats

Nickson: 6-for-9, 73 yards, 1 TD
VU: 4-for-5 on a third down
Sean Walker: 2 catches, 53 yards, 1 TD
VU rushing: 11 yards on 10 carries

7:25: Vanderbilt's secondary is living up to the hype tonight. Cornerback Myron Lewis came up with an interception a the first play of the second quarter. Lewis may not get as much hype as Mr. Moore, but he might be just as talented.

Vanderbilt's drive stalled as the offensive line failed to give Nickson any time to throw on third-and-four. However, it was encouraging to see tailback Gaston Miller rush for 17 yards on four carries. He adds a new dimension to the Commodores' running game.

7:37: We've got ourselves a ball game. The elusive Eugene Harris just caught a 30-yard touchdown to cut Vanderbilt's lead in half. It's now 17-10 Vanderbilt with 6:58 remaining in the first half.

I'll say it again: When healthy, Chris Nickson has to chance to be a special player. He just took off for 59yards on a designed quarterback draw. Let's see if the Commodores can convert inside the red zone.

7:47: Nickson just put the Commodores ahead 24-10 after scoring from 14 yards out. Nickson made a beautiful read on the QB draw, taking it to the outside after setting up his blocks. The redshirt senior has now rushed for 79 yards on 10 carries and two scores and completed six of 10 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown.

7:58: Safety Ryan Hamilton just dropped a sure interception, but Vanderbilt forced Miami (OH) to punt nonetheless. With 2:21 remaining in the half, let's see if Vanderbilt can get on the board again.

Nickson just took off for a big gain on the third down as the Commodores seek to score before the half.

8:08: Hahnfeldt just kicked a 32-yard field goal to give Vanderbilt a 27-10 lead with 14 seconds remaining in the first half. Nickson has now rushed for 121 yards on 12 carries.

Great 30 minutes for the Commodores. Here are a few key half-time stats:

Total yards: VU (218), MU (181)
Passing yards: VU (73), MU (113)
Rushing yards: VU (145), MU (68)
Penalties: VU (1-for-15), MU (4-for-35)
Turnovers: VU (1), MU (2)
Third-down conversion: VU (6-for-9), MU (2-for-6)

Key Players
Chris Nickson: 6-for-12, 73 yards, 1 TD; 12 carries for 121 yards, 2 TDs
D.J. Moore: 1 INT, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 91-yard punt return

9:00: Not much to report on this half. Nathan Parseghianjust kicked a 30-yard field goal to cut Vanderbilt's lead to 14 with a little over six minutes remaining in the third quarter.

9:05: Here's my one complaint with Chris Nickson tonight: when he leaves the pocket, he has chosen to hold onto the football and take a loss instead of simply throwing it out of bounds.

9:07: Jamie Graham just got...JACKED UP! I love the fact that he just bounced right back up.

Props to Andrew Barge, a contributor here on The Sports VU, for representing Vanderbilt well on the sidelines in an interview with ESPNU. Well done, Bargo!

9:40: Jared Hawkins just scored from four yards out to give Vanderbilt a 34-13 lead with 5:40 remaining in the fourth quarter, effectively putting the game out of reach. Encouraging to see the Commodores close out a game in a style.

9:57: Josh Allen just came down with a sweet interception in the end zone to preserve Vanderbilt's 34-13 victory. And that wraps it up from here. Check back tomorrow morning for extended coverage from the guys here at The Sports VU. Have a great night, everyone. Be safe.

Commodore Banter: Gameday Edition

The wait is over. The Commodores will take on the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks tonight at 6:30 p.m. CT on ESPNU.

In his pre-game notebook, Brett Hait of The Nashville City Paper notes that Vanderbilt is the first Southeastern Conference team to play in Oxford, Ohio.

"Any SEC team has a big target on their back, wherever they go, because everyone says we’re the best conference in the nation,” said center Bradley Vierling. “We take that to heart, because we’re going to have a target on our back.”

Vanderbilt rushed for 290 yards in its 24-13 victory over the Redhawks last year in Nashville, but Hait says it'd be unwise to expect a similar performance tonight. Miami features three linebackers who were recently named to the watch list for the Butkus Award, presented annually to the nation’s top linebacker.

Hait also notes that the Commodores are 4-point underdogs, which seems just a little bit high to me...

In Mo Patton's notebook, he adds that Vanderbilt is 8-3 all-time against current Mid-American Conference opponents. And, on another note, the Commodores have sold 18,177 season tickets for their six-game home schedule, which is nearly 7,000 more than the 11,500 season tickets sold in 2006 — the last time South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee all played at Vanderbilt Stadium.

Finally, Patton breaks down the matchup and predicts that the Commodores will win 20-17. Here's a look at the rest of his analysis:
The defense may have to hold down the fort early while an inexperienced offense finds its way. Though a little young, Vanderbilt's defensive line and linebackers will need to keep Miami's ground game in check. Offensively, the Commodores will need to get Sean Walker and Justin Wheeler involved in the passing game.

Defensively, the RedHawks, with their stable of linebackers, may be able to slow down Vanderbilt. On the other side of the ball, though, Miami has to muster something behind quarterback Daniel Raudabaugh.

LT Reilly Lauer spent last season as a reserve defensive end before earning a starting role on the offensive line. A bit undersized at 6-6, 275, a matchup against Miami's defensive ends should help his transition into SEC play.

LB Clayton Mullins. One of three Miami linebackers on the Butkus Award watch list, Mullins led the team with 143 (69 solos) total tackles last fall.

Vanderbilt WR Sean Walker vs. Miami CB Jeff Thompson. Walker needs to be Vandy's go-to guy in the passing game, and he has the speed to do it. But Thompson is the RedHawks' most experienced cover guy, with five defensed passes last year.

There's a hesitance to place too much importance on a season opener. However, this is a game that could define the Commodores' season — at least, if it goes the wrong way. Facing an SEC opponent at home for the first time, Miami and its fans will be jacked up. Vanderbilt should weather that emotion, though, and pull out the win.

I'm off to class, but I'll have more up this afternoon. Less than eight hours to go...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Alvarez signing in jeopardy

Pedro Alvarez may not be a Pittsburgh Pirate after all.

Major League Baseball has placed the former Vanderbilt third baseman on the restricted list because Alvarez's agent, Scott Boras, informed the team that Alvarez would not sign the contract and wants it renegotiated.

The case has also been forwarded to the players union, and it's been reported that the union planned to pursue a grievance against the Pirates, claiming that Alvarez agreed to his contract after the Aug. 15 midnight deadline.

Pittsburgh said it was informed by Boras that Alvarez would not report to the Pirates until they renegotiated his contract and agreed to pay him more than the $6 million signing bonus to which he agreed.

Boras also said that the contract was agreed to after the deadline.

"This claim was not raised on the evening of the 15th when we informed Mr. Boras that Major League Baseball had confirmed that the contract was submitted in a timely fashion," the team said. "Mr. Boras asserted this claim several days later, after all of the draft signings had become publicized."

"Regrettably, we are not surprised that Mr. Boras would attempt to raise a meritless legal claim in an effort to compel us to renegotiate Pedro's contract to one more to his liking," the team said. "We are, however, disappointed that Pedro would allow his agent to pursue this claim on his behalf. "

The team also said it had been assured by the commissioner's office that its contract with Alvarez is valid, and that MLB "will vigorously defend any claim to the contrary."

It will be interesting to see how this saga plays out, although I'd rule out the possibility of Alvarez returning to school.

UPDATE: Thanks to NY Dore of for alerting me to this message to Pedro Alvarez by John Brattain of Baseball Digest Daily. Here's an excerpt from this critical piece on Alvarez's agent, Scott Boras:
Scott Boras has been trying to find loopholes in the draft for over 20 years–he has been playing a cat and mouse game, or better still, a game of poker with MLB for self-enrichment.

Boras is a multi-millionaire but you’re the one spotting him chips for this particular hand–he is gambling with your money … with your career.

Boras has had a lot of setbacks in recent years–Alex Rodriguez dumped him last year, he has a losing record in arbitration cases and the new draft rules cramp his style and teams are able to handle him more effectively. This isn’t about you; it’s about Boras and his stature in MLB and the agent business.

Go online, Google your name and check out what folks are saying about you–it ain’t pretty. You have a good start at becoming the game’s next pariah–or at the very least the next favourite target of the boo-birds. All for the sake of half a season of the major league minimum; a total you can double by reaching the major league a year earlier by getting your career started as expeditiously as possible.

You’re a pawn in Boras’ game. It isn’t about the commission on the $200,000–it’s about his ability to say he got his client the largest bonus in the draft, it’s about testing the boundaries of the rules surrounding the draft, it’s about finding and/or creating a loophole that he can use for future clients.

Not you.

You’re just the sucker he’s duped into playing along in his little game.


Commodore Banter (8/27)

We're almost there...

As mentioned here last night, Chris Nickson will start tomorrow night's season opener at Miami of Ohio.

"It was a process that's been going on," coach Bobby Johnson told Brett Hait of The Nashville City Paper. "There was no magic moment."

This will be the third straight year Nickson has come out of preseason practice as the No. 1 quarterback.

"This is an opportunity for my to regain a lot of things I let go of and lost in some ways," Nickson said. "It's an opportunity for me to redeem myself. I always wanted to be a leader and be someone special for this organization. I have an opportunity to begin that on Thursday night.

"I'm very excited, but after what I've been through, being the starter isn't everything. It's coming out here and getting the job done. Hopefully I'll be able to accomplish what I want to accomplish and help us win the game."

It's encouraging to see that Nickson realizes that he can lose his job as quickly as he won it.

"Just because a guy's a quarterback doesn't mean he's allowed to stay in the game if he's not producing," Johnson told Mo Patton of The Tennessean. "If he's not doing what he's supposed to do, we'll put somebody else in there that can do it right."

Ultimately, Johnson is hoping that Nickson can revert to his 2006 form because at his best, Nickson gives the Commodores the best chance to win. Will that happen? That's the million-dollar question that won't even be answered fully tomorrow night.

Even if Nickson impresses against Miami, it's not going to mean much. Sure, it's a start, but the real test will come next Thursday against South Carolina. That's when we'll be able to tell how much progress he has made.

What does this decision mean for Mackenzi Adams? Probably not much. Adams is a fierce competitor that is going to give you his best whenever he's called upon. I'm sure part of him had to know that Nickson would be given the nod if their preseason performances were similar.

Ideally, Nickson plays well from week one to week 12 and Adams remains a more than capable back-up quarterback. However, if Nickson does falter, both the players and coaches will have no problem putting their trust in Adams.

In other football news, Brett Hait has a great story about redshirt freshman Chris Marve, the next great Vanderbilt linebacker.

“He’s got an intensity about him that you really like,” Johnson said. “Every play, he seems to be going all out and full speed. He’s got a nasty attitude when he gets to the ball. He’s going to finish plays, and that’s what we like about him.”

Even without Earl Bennett (NFL), George Smith and Alex Washington (both injured), Vanderbilt is confident in its receiving corps, writes Patton.

"It's been a long time coming," said Justin Wheeler. "I've been working hard for three years. I'm going to step up. We've got some young guys that can play. We've got talent, we can catch the ball, we can block and we're going to make it happen."

We'll all find out tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Nickson's the man

Maurice Patton of the Tennessean has reported that Chris Nickson will be the starter for the Miami game. Not a big surprise there, but I expect that Mac will be waiting for his shot if Nickson struggles in the first half.

Gridiron Guarantee?

Check out this article my dad forwarded to me from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Stanford University is giving what they call a "Gridiron Guarantee" to get more fans to come to their games. Basically, if you aren't satisfied with the "entertainment value" of the games by November 15 when USC visits, you get your money back.

I bring this up because I am curious to see what people think about Vandy doing the same thing. Seems to me that Stanford will lose a lot of money and put a ton of pressure on their team to win games, but their game-day atmosphere will be much improved.

With that said, Vandy's game-day atmosphere at home leaves a lot to be desired because of all the opposing team's fans. However, Stanford's schedule does not feature the marquee teams that Vandy's does, and thus, it seems like Vandy doing this would be even more costly. While I would love to have a packed stadium of Vandy fans for big SEC games, I don't think I would be willing to do this. One game a year, like the South Carolina game this year since it is on ESPN, may be worth it.

What do you think? Would you be in favor of Vandy giving out a guarantee to put fans in the seats and build a fan base around Nashville? Or is the economic loss too great?

Commodore Banter (8/26)

The best part about the preseason? The hope, the optimism, the belief that this will be the year. The worst part? The waiting.

As Reshard Langford said yesterday, "We're just ready to go play." And we're just ready to watch.

In two days and a little over six hours, the Commodores will take the field in Oxford, Ohio. Until then, here are a few links to help pass the time...

We touched on this yesterday in the football notebook, but The Tennessean's Mo Patton also has a story on the quarterback situation.

Columnist Joe Biddle says the season-opener is a must-win for the Commodores. Hard to disagree with that statement.

VU Commodores has a great interview with defensive end Theron Kadri. You've got to love his confidence.
Personal goals/expectations for the season?

Mainly I just want to try to get All-SEC, and then All-American if at all possible. But, we'll see. I want to at least try to make sure I get a sack a game. That's saying a lot, but I at least want to try for it.

It never hurts to dream big, does it?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Catching up with George Smith and Reshard Langford

Following coach Bobby Johnson's press conference, I had a chance to catch up with captains George Smith and Reshard Langford as they count down the hours until the Commodores' season opener Thursday night at Miami of Ohio.


Address how the receiving corps looks in your absence.
GS: We’re strong in the receiving corps. Sean Walker has become one of the biggest vocal leaders I’ve ever seen. He’s got a world of confidence.

It's been reported that Sean Walker has had a great camp, even staying after practice to run routes.
GS: Something like that, staying after practice, is a ritual for receivers. Sean has been working hard. Ever since I went down, I think he knew in his head that he had to step up and be a vocal leader and lead by example.

What should we expect from Jamie Graham?
GS: We don’t like at him like a young guy. He’s played basketball and played in front of big crowds and that gives us a lot of confidence knowing that he can perform under pressure.

Do you think playing basketball helps with football?
GS: I think anybody who’s played on TV or played with games on the line, that definitely has to be taken into effect.

What will it be like to watch from the sidelines on Thursday?
GS: I’m going to be the biggest cheerleader on Thursday and that’s not a tough job for me.

You have to be careful not to hurt the foot again.
GS: I’ve got the one hop on lock. I’m looking forward to cheering on my teammates and making sure that they can do the best that they can do on Thursday.

How has it been preparing for two quarterbacks?
GS: I think it’s a great luxury. Both of them are well-prepared and I think I, along with the rest of the team, have confidence in both of them. Both of them have been in big games and made big plays and that’s exciting to know that you have two quarterbacks capable of winning games.

Who are some guys that you think are in store for a big year?
GS: Jamie Graham, Casey Hayward, a lot of guys on the offensive line...And, how can I forget my No. 1 step-up guy, Chris Marve. I'm looking for a great season out of him. He’s not going to be a freshman, especially after the first game.

Talk about the growth of the program in your time here.
GS: I think this is the fastest team I’ve ever seen, fastest defense I’ve ever seen, and that’s exciting because I get to go against them. That makes me better.

You face both D.J. Moore and Myron Lewis on a daily basis. While D.J. gets a lot of the hype, how do they compare?
GS: Myron is just as good, 6’2", 6’3", 190 (pounds), long arms, can steer you any direction he wants you to.


How excited are you for the season to start?
RL: We’re just ready to go out and play. We’ve been talking about it all season, changing this program, changing things around here. We’re just ready to go play.

How much sleep do you expect to get this week?
RL: I didn’t sleep much last night. But I’m going to sleep, and do what I have to do to prepare myself to get ready for this game.

What will it take for the defense to be as good or better than it was last year?
RL: I feel like playing defense is all about will and how much do you not want the other team to score or complete a pass on you or run the ball on you, and I think we’ve got that. We can be just as good or better than we were last year.

What's the biggest question mark you have with your defense?
RL: I don’t have any question marks at all. I think we’ll go in confident, ready to play, we’ll play hard from start to finish.

What impresses you most about Chris Marve?
RL: His attitude about the game. He loves the game. I enjoy when he’s out on the field, I enjoy all my guys out there. Just his intensity, his love for the game, his spirit about it, is just amazing.

How much different is it being a senior?
RL: It’s a little different. I have a lot more knowledge. I know what’s going on. I can see things differently than some other players might see things. It makes the game a lot easier and it slows it down for me.

Vanderbilt football notebook

Just got back from Vanderbilt's first weekly press conference and here's a look at what we learned from coach Bobby Johnson.

And the quarterback is...

As expected, Johnson did not say whether Chris Nickson and Mackenzi Adams would get the nod in Thursday's season opener at Miami of Ohio.

"We’ve got another important day of practice today and we’ll probably make a decision right after that," Johnson said.

Tonight's practice could be critical in determining the starter.

"We’re going to put them up against Miami of Ohio’s defense out there as best we can show it, and we’re going to make reads today and we’re going to make decisions today and we’re going to throw the ball today," Johnson said.

While Johnson did not plan to wait this long to name a starter, he said he is not surprised given the two quarterbacks' similarities.

"I kind of thought it would come this way because I think, again, they’re very capable," he said. "Both guys have done it in the past, both guys have played extremely well for us in the past, and I expected it to be a tough battle."

"I think both guys know they’re capable of running our offense, and they’ve done it before, and they’re both very confident," Johnson added.

Johnson said he plans to stick with a starter during the regular season, since it's important that one quarterback receives the majority of reps in practice. At the same time, he added that they're going to be prepared for all four quarterbacks to play.

"I think that’s the luxury that we have with two quarterbacks, and actually all four," Johnson said. "We don’t have to have a separate game plan for any of them. We can get them in the game and they can execute our game plan without having to make any major changes."

Vandy won't underestimate opponent

Johnson knows his squad isn't going to take Miami lightly, even with South Carolina on the horizon.

"Anybody on our schedule can beat us and we can beat anybody on our schedule," he said. "We have to plan to play well, and that’s what we’ve been preaching to our guys, all the little things – taking care of the ball, no penalties, be great on special teams – we’ve got to be good at right off the bat."

"I don’t care who they are, what conference they’re in, they’re tough," Johnson said. "I think it’s been proven a bunch here in the last few years that anybody can beat anybody. Appalachian (State)-Michigan, Louisiana whoever (Monroe) beating Alabama, it’s hard to win games. You’ve got to be ready to go every week."

Thursday night trade off

The fact that Vanderbilt plays back-to-back Thursday night games on ESPNU and ESPN, respectively, to start the season does not come without a price.

"Two Thursday night games really makes you think it out a little bit," Johnson said. "We’re running around saying, ‘Well today is Monday but it’s actually Wednesday’ and the next thing you know you think it’s Christmas. It is different, especially now that school has started."

Different does not necessarily mean bad, Johnson said.

"It’s not that bad if you do a little planning," he said. "We’ll have to practice next weekend. Saturday, you think you’re playing, but no, you’re not playing, you’re practicing. But, we appreciate the opportunity to go out and play two Thursday games and be on ESPNU this week and ESPN the next week. That is exposure for our program and we’re willing to pay the price of doing that."

Three more observations

1. Regarding the offensive line, Johnson said, "I think we’re more athletic there and hopefully that’s going to mean that as soon as we get those guys some experience, we’ll be just as good or better on the offensive line.

2. Johnson is expecting big things from running back Gaston Miller, who redshirted last season after playing sparingly as a true freshman in 2006. "Over that time, he’s gotten stronger, he’s improved his pass protection, he’s just as fast," Johnson said.

3. A number of true freshmen will contribute on Thursday: wide receiver Jon Cole, safety Sean Richardson, cornerback Casey Hayward and defensive tackles Ryan Seymour and Rob Lohr.

Week 1 Depth Chart

Here's a look at Vanderbilt's depth chart heading into the final week of preseason practice:


QB: Chris Nickson or Mackenzi Adams
RB: Jeff Jennings or Jared Hawkins
Z WR: Sean Walker
Chris Reinert
X WR: Jamie Graham or Udom Umoh
S WR: Justin Wheeler
John Cole
TE: Austin Monahan
Jake Bradford or Brandon Barden
LT: Reilly Lauer
Kyle Fischer
LG: Ryan Custer
Drew Gardner
C: Bradley Vierling
Joey Bailey
RG: Joey Bailey
Nick Forte
RT: Thomas Welch
Eric Hensley


DE: Steven Stone
Teriall Brannon
DT: Greg Billinger
Ryan Seymour or Rob Lohr
DT: Adam Smotherman
T.J. Greestone
DE: Broderick Stewart
Theron Kadri
SLB: John Stokes
Brent Trice
MLB: Chris Marve
Chris Johnson
WLB: Patrick Benoist
Nathan Campbell
CB: D.J. Moore
Josh Allen
SS: Reshard Langford
Sean Richardson
FS: Ryan Hamilton
Joel Caldwell
CB: Myron Lewis
Casey Hayward
NB: Darlron Spead
Jared Fagan

PK: Bryant Hahnfeldt
SN: John Stokes
H: Mackenzi Adams
KO: Bryant Hahnfeldt

KR: D.J. Moore and Sean Walker
PR: D.J. Moore and Sean Walker
P: Brett Upson

Commodore Banter (8/25)

It's the first day of class here at Vanderbilt and the football season starts in three days. It doesn't get much better than that.

I'll be on hand for the Commodores' first weekly press conference today at noon and will have plenty of interviews up for you guys later on this afternoon so make sure to check back throughout the day.

In the meantime, here's a few links on this glorious, albeit rainy, Monday morning...

Bobby Johnson isn't going to name a starter at quarterback before the season opener Thursday at Miami of Ohio, but Mo Patton of The Tennessean wonders if that's a good thing.

The article raises a number of compelling points:

1) Competition in practice could take away from the preparation process for whoever is eventually named the starter.

"Getting (the starter) ready, he needs about 85 or 90 percent of the reps," said former VU quarterback Kurt Page. "You really need to get those reps in practice — get your pre-snap reads, your checks, your audibles. The best players get better by doing it over and over. By splitting the reps, neither one of them are ready. they're both half-ready."

2) The starter might not be as confident, constantly looking over his shoulder, wondering whether he'll be pulled after making a mistake.

At the same time, Johnson wants to be sure that his decision is the correct one.

"I just want to make sure we pick the right one," Johnson said. "They're working awfully hard right now. They all want to win it. That's what you want in practice. You want them working hard, trying to make the plays they're supposed to make in practice — not saying, 'I'll make that one in the game.' "

Also, Brett Hait of The Nashville City Paper poses the question we all want to ask: Can Johnson push the Commodores over the proverbial “hump?”

One stat that really jumped out at me: "From the final two games of 1995 to 2005, the Commodores won only six of 73 SEC games." Think about that for a second, and then try to diminish the job Johnson has done with this program.

“I know how this close this team is," said former VU safety Corey Chavous. "I just want them to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Everything is in place for them to do it now. They will get over the hump, and that’s how we have to think.”

Also, from Sunday's paper, Patton has Vanderbilt's game-by-game outlook.

Finally, props to the women's soccer team for edging Belmont 1-0 in double OT.

I'm off to McGugin for the press conference, but be sure to check back this afternoon for all the press conference highlights.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Men's Basketball Ranked 55th in Pre-Season Poll

While the football season is (thankfully) just around the corner, it is never too late to start thinking about our basketball team. That being said, here is a link to a article that puts the Commodores in the 55 spot in a national preseason poll.

I think that their analysis is dead on- the team will high on talent but short on experience and will need to push to stay off of the NCAA tournament bubble. As the article states, I think it is safe look for most of the newcomers to step up in a big way, especially redshirt freshman Festus Ezeli. I cannot wait to see the look on the face of the opposing team when the big man and A.J. Ogilvy step onto the court at the same time.

My prediction? Assuming that all of the freshman play as expected and the veterans step up, the team will play in a third straight NCAA tournament, this time as an 8 seed. A 55 ranking is fair, but a little low in my opinion.

What do you think? Will the team prove the Rivals editors wrong and sneak their way into the top 25? Or will they tank with the absence of Shan Foster and company?

The Rivals Article

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Vandy Secondary getting a lot of respect

Two years ago, many around Vandy felt that the secondary was a major weakness so much so that two freshmen played major minutes. What a difference two years makes as D.J. Moore and Myron Lewis have become two of the best corners in the nation. Check out this ranking by The site ranks Vanderbilt's secondary number three in the nation behind only national champion contenders Ohio State and Southern Cal!!! Let's hope Scout is right and the Vandy secondary lives up to the hype. They have the talent that's for sure.

Here is another great link from Chris Low of where he talks to D.J., Coach Johnson, and Broderick Stewart.

Broderick says that as long as he stays healthy, Vandy are going to a bowl. Gotta love the optimism.

D.J. talks about his added role this upcoming season and how he has done more off-season conditioning to prepare.

Great interview with CBJ. I don't love the guy, but you can't knock his character, how much he has improved Vandy football, or the way he represents the university.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Sports VU Update

Contrary to popular belief, I am still alive. For the past two weeks, I have been leading orientation for first-year Vanderbilt students. We've been working from seven to seven every day, which has made posting somewhat difficult.

All I can say is that I apologize for the site's inactivity and that I can't wait to get back to the keyboard. It's been weird being away from you guys for so long.

With that said, The Sports VU will return better than ever on Monday. So, go ahead and enjoy the rest of the week. I can't wait for the season to begin and I'll see you guys soon.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Chris Aaron released from the hospital

There was a scary moment for the Commodores yesterday, as redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Chris Aaron had to go to the hospital after suffering what appeared to be a neck injury during live drills.

However, the hospitalization was a precautionary measure and Aaron was released late last night.

Coach Bobby Johnson gave well-deserved kudos to the Vanderbilt training staff for handling the matter promptly and successfully.

"We have a fine training staff and they're going to go to the nth degree to make sure they're doing the right thing and keeping them safe," Johnson said.

Pedro Alvarez Negotiations

If there was any hope Pedro Alvarez might sign a major league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, it might be fading, writes Dejan Kovacevi of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  

  • The reason: Drafted players can have their contracts fully rescinded if a physical taken after the signing discovers a major issue, but only if those are minor league contracts. The same is not true of major league contracts.
  • With Major League Baseball's signing deadline at midnight tomorrow, some progress probably would have been needed toward a major league contract by yesterday to afford the time to arrange and perform the physical. But no major league contract was known to have been offered, as of yesterday afternoon.

As tenuous as this reason may seem, for an organization such as the Pirates with a such limited resources, an investment of the magnitude required to sign a Scott Boras client (Pedro Alvarez) must be made with extreme caution.  If Alvarez were offered a minor league contract, it would hard be imagining the deal going through because of Boras.  

That said, the Pirates would receive the No. 3 overall pick in the 2009 MLB draft if they are unable to come to terms with Alvarez.  Let's hope he signs, especially considering the Pirates' dire need for a quality bat, but some more majestic shots at Hawkins Field wouldn't exactly be a bad thing.  

Monday, August 11, 2008

Commodore Banter (8/11)

A few links to pass along as everyone gets caught up in Michael Phelps fever...

Most of you probably don't know much about Vanderbilt linebacker Brandon Bryant. After reading this story by Brett Hait of The Nashville City Paper, you'll be blown away. The last year of his life has been the most trying one could ever imagine.

“It’s been quite eventful, to say the least,” he said. “At times it’s been very rough, but it’s been a positive experience. I wouldn’t ask for it to play out any different. Some say that’s strange, but we all have something in store for us.

“As long as we hold true to that, we realize that things happen in life for a reason. Just keep pressing forward.”

Meanwhile, another linebacker, redshirt freshman Chris Marve, looks to be a four-year stater for the Commodores, according to Mo Patton of The Tennessean.

"He's got an intensity about him that you really like," said Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson. "Every play, he seems to be going all-out, full speed, trying to get his job done.

"He's got a nasty attitude when he gets to the ball. He's going to finish plays."

Note that Marve had 178 tackles in just 14 games as a high school senior.

"Playing linebacker, you've got to love contact," he said. "That's one thing about me, I love to hit."

Commodore fans love to hear that.

In case you weren't sure that Vanderbilt is a linebacker factory, here's another story about former Commodore Marcus Buggs, who's been impressive at camp with the Buffalo Bills. With Marve set to take over for Jonathan Goff in the middle, I'd imagine that it will be harder for the Dores to replace the high-energy Buggs on the outside.

And, while this linebacker has yet to play a down in three years, it's hard not to root for walk-on Bo "Rudy" Baggerley. I made up the nickname, but I think it's appropriate...

In baseball news, David Price was promoted to Triple-A Durham and could be joining the big-league club soon.

"We have spoken about him in regard to him prior to September," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "We've had a lot of discussions, and we just want to do the right thing as we perceive them to be the right things. ... His performance to this point has been spectacular."

Meanwhile, the Pirates are fed up with Pedro Alvarez, his agent Scott Boras in particular.

I'd be shocked if Alvarez doesn't sign, but I think the battle between Boras and the Pirates is a reflective of a larger problem in Major League Baseball.

"We need to put together a system that fairly compensates the highly talented players and at the same time makes it easier for the player and the club to get the player (signed)," said Pittsburgh team president Frank Coonelly.

Also, props to senior Andrew Giobbi, who won the Cape Cod Baseball League's Manny Robello 10th Player Award, given to a player who performs above and beyond expectations.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Commodore Banter: Weekend Edition

After 1,200 miles in the car with my old man (spread over three days, thankfully), I'm finally back in Nashville. Apologies for the slow week on the site, but we should be good to go from here. Anyways, onto the links from the past couple of days...

First, in basketball news, Shan Foster will play in Italy next season. While Foster's dreams of playing in the NBA will be put on hold, it seems like the best business move for him.

Vanderbilt's all-time leading scorer signed a one-year deal with JuveCaserta, a first-division club. The Mavs still retain his NBA rights.

"He performed well in summer league but this gives him a chance to improve," said Mavs president Donnie Nelson. "His future is very bright, and we're excited about him rejoining us next summer."

Meanwhile, we've got some unfortunate news to report on two former Commodores. Offensive tackle Chris Williams, a first-round pick by the Chicago Bears, will mis 10-12 weeks after having surgery to repair a herniated disc in his lower back.

In addition, New York Giants linebacker Jonathan Goff will be out indefinitely after fracturing his transverse process (an injury to the vertebra) in his first preseason game. Hopefully the injury doesn't turn out to be too serious.

As for the current Commodores, here's a look back at some of the top stories from the past few days:

* The Tennessean's Mo Patton breaks down the defensive line. He notes that Steven Stone has bulked up to be able to play both end and tackle, and sophomore end Theron Kadri looks poised to play on a full-time basis. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman T.J. Greenstone and true freshman Rob Lohr have looked good at tackle, and true freshman Josh Jelesky may earn time at end.

* In this notebook, Patton discusses the impressive play of wide receivers Udom Umoh and Justin Wheeler, as well as kicker Bryant Hahnfeldt.

* Brett Hait of The Nashville City Paper has a great story about Corey Chavous' recent inspirational speech to the Commodores.
Chavous challenged the Commodores to become the school’s first team to post a winning season and play in a bowl game since 1982. To the surprise of some players, he knew them by name and says he watches Vanderbilt games on television whenever possible.

“This is my school and I love them to death,” he said. “It’s good to come back and let them know people like me are following their every move.

“I’m proud of what they’re doing here. They’re close to being over the hump, and I just want to let them know how close they really are. We’re at the point with this program now that we’ve been trying to get to for years.”

* Hait also has an in-depth feature about Chris Nickson returning to form. While coach Bobby Johnson has yet to name a starter, this comment was particularly telling.

“I think we're going to be much better at quarterback this year because Chris Nickson is confident and healthy again,” Johnson said.

* National observers have great respect for the job Johnson has done with the Commodores. Need proof? Read this story from Patton and another one by Hait.

In addition,'s Stewart Mandel lists Johnson as the nation's most underrated coach. Explanation here:
How can a coach that's gone 20-50 in six seasons be "underrated," you ask? Because record be damned, Vandy is no longer your father's Vandy. The Commodores, for the first time in a quarter-century, are a legitimately competitive SEC team (and this at a time when the conference has never been tougher).

Over the past three years, they've beaten the likes of Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina while losing heartbreakers to the Vols and Dawgs last year and Florida in '05. And they've come within a couple plays of reaching bowl games in two of those seasons. Hopefully Johnson will get that reward soon to tangibly reflect the impact he's had on that program.

Well said.

* Patton has a good piece about two fifth-year seniors, Jared Fagan and Josh Allen, who are providing depth at cornerback.

"Those guys are still good players," Johnson said. "We just recruited two pretty outstanding guys (D.J. Moore and Myron Lewis) that moved in front of them. We always say in recruiting, our goal is to get better players than we have right now. That's our goal every year, to get better players."

Have a great weekend, everyone, and we'll be back in full force on Monday. Just 19 days and counting until the season opener...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Chris Williams undergoes surgery

First-round draft pick Chris Williams' professional debut will have to wait. The former Vanderbilt offensive lineman, who was selected 14th overall by the Chicago Bears in the NFL Draft, had surgery to repair a herniated disc in his lower back that had sidelined him for the last two weeks.

The good news is he won't be put on Injured Reserve, meaning the Bears think he'll be good to play again this season.

Earl Bennett, however, was able to make his professional debut in the Bears' preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs, returning three kickoffs for a total of 52 yards and one punt for nine yards. Not exactly Devin Hester, but at least he didn't fumble any balls.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Commodore Banter (8/6)

A few links to pass along as I finish packing for my trek back to Nashville, which begins tomorrow morning...

The best preseason is one in which nobody gets hurt. Unfortunately for the Commodores, the injury bug has already hit. Starting wide receiver George Smith will be out for at least the next four weeks with a stress fracture in his right foot, reports Brett Hait of The Nashville City Paper.

Smith, a senior co-captain and team’s leading returning receiver, is scheduled to undergo surgery Thursday and will likely miss the season opener Aug. 28 at Miami of Ohio. Redshirt freshman Udom Umoh might assume a starting role in Smith's absence.

"Udom came up big today and has been having a great camp,” said coach Bobby Johnson, who also singled out Justin Wheeler for having a solid camp and noted that freshman John Cole will be a factor. Throw in two-way player D.J. Moore and redshirt freshman Jamie Graham and you have a strong receiving corps. Still, it's an important loss for the Commodores nonetheless.

The Tulsa World has a feature on Mackenzi Adams, who seems to get overlooked as everyone focuses on the quarterback he's trying to beat out, Chris Nickson.

"We're not enemies or anything," Adams said. "I'm just going to go out there and worry about me."

Despite the loss of first-round pick Chris Williams and four other starters, Bobby Johnson isn't concerned about the offensive line, writes The Tennessean's Mo Patton. Couldn't agree more.

"We're experimenting, doing a lot of moving around," said offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell. "Everybody's learning two positions. Our motto's always been, play the best five. If it means changing position, they should know how to do that."

In baseball news, David Price is "very close" to the big leagues, according to his Double-A manager Billy Gardner Jr.

"He's going to be a No. 1 guy, he's going to be anchoring a staff, down the road," Gardner said. "And if he stays healthy, he's going to win a lot of games on the major league level and be an All-Star. He's a very gifted guy."

Meanwhile, talks between Pedro Alvarez and the Pittsburgh Pirates have gone nowhere and with just 10 days remaining in the signing period, the pressure is on.

"We are extraordinarily interested in signing Pedro Alvarez," said team president Frank Coonelly. "But we're not going to take every dollar that this club has at its disposal this year and will next year and give all that money to a player who has yet to take a swing in professional baseball."

In other words, there's still a small chance for Alvarez to return to Vanderbilt...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Commodore Banter (8/5)

A few links to pass along as we anxiously wait for the fall to get here...

In 2005, Earl Bennett broke onto the scene as a true freshman. Looks like John Cole has a chance to do the same, writes The Tennessean's Mo Patton.

Without Bennett and Alex Washington, who's recovering from a knee injury, Cole has a chance to contribute. The 5'11", 170-pound Cole won the Kentucky 100 meters and caught 164 passes for 3,519 yards and 51 touchdowns over the past two seasons.

"We don't have pads on, but he's showing what we thought he would be, all the skills we saw when we signed him," said Vanderbilt receivers coach Charlie Fisher. "He's got a good feel for the game. Obviously he's very quick and very fast. Hopefully he'll keep progressing."

As we talked about in last week's preview, Vanderbilt's linebackers are already drawing praise for their effort and knowledge, writes Brett Hait of The Nashville City Paper.

With junior Patrick Benoist and sophomore John Stokes on the outside and redshirt freshman Chris Marve in the middle, Johnson said he likes what he says. Also, former safety Brent Trice should thrive as a third-down specialist because of his coverage skills.

In NFL news, Earl Bennett is taking lessons from Devin Hester on how to field punts.

Over the weekend, Casey Weathers pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to close out the game for Team USA as they prepare for the Olympics.

Finally, Tennessee had the nation's largest athletics recruiting budget in 2007 at more than $2 million, according to a recent study by The Chronicle of Higher Education. Following UT are Notre Dame ($1.75 million), Florida ($1.45 million), Auburn ($1.37 million), Kansas State ($1.3 million) and Georgia ($1.28 million).

Looks like the Vols didn't get much bang for their buck.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Commodore Banter (8/4)

A few links to pass along on this Monday morning...

To understand what Chris Nickson went through in 2007 what a type of person he is, check out this story by The Tennessean's Mo Patton.

"When you've been through what I've been through, you no longer play for the people that criticized you," Nickson said. "I have nothing to prove to anybody except the God I live for. No longer are people involved in what I do. That changed over the past season."

Brett Hait of The Nashville City Paper has a great feature on Reshard Langford, the leader of the Commodore defense.

Center Bradley Vierling plans to take his co-captaincy seriously, write Mo Patton of The Tennessean.

"Nobody likes being put down, but it's how you're going to respond to it," he said. "We're the dog of the SEC and we like it, and we're going to come and bite you. We kinda' dislike it, but it gives us fuel for the fire and we're ready to burn something up."

D.J. Moore spent Sunday's practice with wide receivers and fielding punts, a sign that Moore will be doing pretty much everything for the Commodores this fall.

Hait has more tidbits in this football notebook. Among them:

* The defense dominated Saturday's practice
* Freshman WR John Cole is living up to the hype
* This will be the final season for redshirt junior Jake Bradford

Vanderbilt has become a haven for football players looking for a change of scenery, writes Patton. The Commodores have four transfers this season, third most in the SEC.

"Academics are taken more seriously here," said Andrew Diomande, who will play this fall as a senior after transferring from Clemson. "Clemson was more lenient toward football players. Here, everyone's at the same level. I had to get adjusted to that."

In baseball news, David Price improved to 10-0 in 14 Minor League starts. He gave up one up run on four hits and struck out a career-high 10 over seven brilliant innings Saturday.

"[Price] doesn't expect to have bad outings," Biscuits catcher Matt Spring told the Montgomery Advertiser. "He said earlier in the year that he expects a perfect game every start and that's the attitude he shows every time. You can't teach his drive on the mound."

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Pre-Season Football Predictions...

I just thought that I would post a few questions/predictions to The Sports VU readers about this coming football season to get some conversation going.

1) Who are you most looking forward to seeing this year: Jamie Graham

2) Who will emerge this year and surprise people: Jared Hawkins

3) Who are we going to beat: Rice, Duke, Kentucky, South Carolina

a) Number of wins: 4
b) Biggest Win: South Carolina
c) Worst Loss: Miami (OH)

4) Will D.J. leave for the NFL after this season? Yes

5) Freshman that will have the biggest impact: Ryan Seymour (DT)

6) Freshman you are most looking forward to seeing: John Cole

7) Biggest Concern: QB play. Our season depends on it.

8) What do you think is our team's biggest strength this year: I know most will say DBs, but I will say WRs.

9) Best home game atmosphere: Auburn

10) Offensive MVP for the season: Jared Hawkins

11) Defensive MVP for the season: Broderick Stewart (D.J. Moore is too easy)

12) Most Improved Player (Offense): Justin Wheeler

13) Most Improved Player (Defense): Greg Billinger

14) Surprise Team in the SEC: Ole Miss

15) Road games you plan to attend: Georgia, Ole Miss.

16) Game you are most excited to see: Georgia. They could be No. 1, and I have never been to UGA. For a home game, I would have to say South Carolina because I think we will win, and it is on ESPN.

If anyone thinks of any other questions, feel free to add them. I'm looking forward to hearing everyone's responses.

Football Notebook: Day 1 Highlights

A look back at the top stories from the Commodores' first day of camp.

1. Fans are going to love Jamie Graham, who's switching from defensive back to wide receiver, writes The Tennessean's Mo Patton.

"I think I can come in and bring that 'fast' mentality to the offense," Graham said, who provided one of the top practice highlights, leaping high between defenders Jared Fagan and Brent Trice to haul in a deep sideline pass from QB Chris Nickson in an early 11-on-11 drill.

"My personality on the football field is a lot more aggressive than it is on the basketball court," he added. "My intensity goes up in football, a whole lot. In basketball, it's high. In football, it'll be out of control."

Johnson agrees.

"Anybody that saw him play in high school would know — he had some unbelievable plays where people couldn't hem him up," Johnson said. "I think he's going to give us an unknown dimension, one that people are going to be fired up about."

2. Few players are more geeked about starting a new season than Chris Nickson, writes's Chris Low.

"I embrace this opportunity more than anything, especially with it being my last year," he said. "I look at it as another opportunity to show the world what you're made of and who you really are deep down inside. I plan to play every down that way."

Johnson said Nickson and Mackenzi Adams will compete for the starting job throughout camp.

"I've got to win the job, and that's how it should be," he said. "When I'm healthy, I feel like I can conquer the world and control the game. It changes things when you don't have to worry about being injured. It allows me to be me and play at a level that I expect."

3. Junior safety Brent Trice has moved to strongside linebacker, reports Brett Hait of The Nashville City Paper.

Coach Bobby Johnson was looking for a way to get Trice on the field and said Trice can be a "hybrid" type of player who is big enough to play linebacker and quick enough to drop back into coverage. He's been playing behind safety Reshard Langford.

4. Hait noted that starting defensive end Steven Stone played some at defensive tackle as the Commodores look to add depth inside.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Doster suspended for season

Redshirt freshman Jermaine Doster was suspended for the entire season by coach Bobby Johnson for violation of team rules, stemming from his arrest two weeks ago for disorderly conduct and two other misdemeanors, Mo Patton from the Tennessean reports.

I'm a little surprised by the harshness of the punishment, but there's no doubt Doster got the message. Johnson holding Doster accountable for his actions should also send shockwaves through the rest of the team to remind them that playing D-1 football is a privilege, and unruly behavior of that magnitude that reflects poorly on the team will not be tolerated.

What do you all think of the suspension? Too harsh? Just right?

The Sports VU: Week in Review

Fall practice begins this morning, which means we're now just 27 days away from the Commodores' season opener at Miami (OH) and The Sports VU is getting restless. Here's a look back at the week's highlights:

Save for the special teams, our position-by-position football preview is completed:

QB Breakdown
RB Breakdown
WR Breakdown
TE Breakdown
OL Breakdown
DL Breakdown
LB Breakdown
DB Breakdown

Five more stories worth checking out if you haven't already:

1. Who's the best Vanderbilt athlete over the past five years?

2. David Price was profiled in this week's Sports Illustrated

3. Ross Neltner and Alex Gordon will be reunited in Turkey

4. The Chicago Bears are already falling in love with Earl Bennettt

5. New NCAA rules are going to put baseball coaches in a bind

Finally, three great videos:

Alvarez talks about committment

Foster posterizes "Fezzy-Winks"

Why I Hate Tennessee

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Vanderbilt Football Preview: DB Breakdown

The Sports VU's position-by-position football preview winds down today with a breakdown of Vanderbilt's talented defensive backs. In case you missed anything, here's what we've looked at so far.

QB Breakdown
RB Breakdown
WR Breakdown
TE Breakdown
OL Breakdown
DL Breakdown
LB Breakdown

Talent and experience. The secondary has a chance to be special this fall, and with the Dores replacing four starters in their front seven, it will need to be for them to be successful. Junior cornerbacks D.J. Moore and Myron Lewis are future pros, as is senior safety Reshard Langford, who's as reliable as they come. Moore is a preseason first-team All-SEC selection after recording 83 tackles and six interceptions in a breakout 2007. Lewis flew under the radar playing opposite Moore, but was equally impressive. At 6'3", Lewis had a team-high 12 pass breakups to go along with 49 tackles, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one INT. The hard-hitting Langford has started all 35 games of his career and always seems to be around the ball. Redshirt junior Darlron Spead is a premier nickelback who should be fully healthy after playing through arm and leg injuries in '07, while redshirt junior Ryan Hamilton improved significantly in his second year as a starter at free safety.

WEAKNESSES: If you find one, let me know. In all seriousness, it's hard to find faults with a unit that excelled a year ago and should only improve '08. If you're wondering about depth, the Commodores are fine. Redshirt junior Joel Caldwell and junior Brent Trice are capable reserves at safety, redshirt sophomore Alan Strong has a promising future at cornerback while redshirt seniors Josh Allen and Jared Fagan are former starters. If we're nitpicking, I think that Hamilton could be more consistent and take better angles.

TOP QUESTIONS: While most good defenses feature a dominant front four, can the Dores rely on their secondary to carry them? Will Moore be able to live up the ridiculous hype? Is Spead going to be able to hold up physically for an entire season? Will the secondary come up with enough turnovers and big plays to help jump-start the offense?

INSTANT ANALYSIS: It's hard not to be excited about this unit. Moore is one of the most electric players in college football with incredible instincts and ball skills, while Lewis has the ideal build for a corner. Opposing quarterbacks will have a tough time deciding what side to throw to. The fact that Strong can contribute will also allow Moore to slide into the slot on occasion. Both safeties can pack a punch and have a wealth of experience that is invaluable in the SEC. While the rest of the defense is full of unknowns, coach Bobby Johnson knows he is set in the secondary. That hasn't always been the case.